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Update: Parents Can't Opt Children Out Of Tests (In Illinois, At Least)

Dear-parentsParents are considered something close to the ultimate authority in most school situations, and can opt their children out of all sorts of things including sex ed, recess, and immunizations.  They can take their kids out of school (within limits). 

It hasn't always been the case, but in many states, they can now opt their children out of public education entirely, and homeschool.

But apparently the parental prerogative is not universal when it comes to standardized testing in Illinois, where the latest wrinkle in the opt out efforts of a relative handful of Chicago parents is the determination that they can't just sign a note or fill out a form.  

Read on for more details -- and some questions.

Starting yesterday, outlets like Catalyst and the Tribune began reporting that part of the reason that the district has been so insistent on parents allowing their kids to take tests was that the state was insisting that they do so. [Parents have no right to opt-out of tests, says state Catalyst; Kids caught in tug of war over ISAT Tribune; Chicago parent group takes ISAT protest to state Board of Ed Sun Times] 

Indeed, according to Mary Fergus of ISBE, "Districts and schools are required to administer the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) under both federal and state law. On a practical level, that means schools are obligated to offer all students the test. There is no-opt out provision in Illinois or federal law. Given that the law requires that schools give this test to all students, there is not a provision that allows parents to have their students “opt out” of this test."

[The state does tell districts and schools what to do if a student refuses to take a test. "If students are present, they must be offered the test. They can refuse the test and then they are to either to sit quietly during the testing administration or, if a district allows, read a book during the testing administration."]

First off, I'm not so sure that participation is required (or parental opt outs are prohibited) under federal law.  Several other states have opt out provisions that seem to have worked relatively well.  The lack of such an option in Illinois seems unwise and unfortunate and ill-considered.  Parents who want to opt out will just keep their kids out of school. Forcing kids to refuse a teacher's instructions seems harsh.  

How other many states lack parent opt out laws for testing, I wonder?  How long until they have them -- or someone proposes and enacts a federal parent opt out for testing?  How many of the 179 testing-related proposals NCSL tracked for Stephanie Banchero's WSJ article are about parental opt outs? I'm asking around but you probably already know the answer, right?


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